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The Limits of Control Review


Excellent
It was about three years ago when, emerging from a press screening of Pedro Almodóvar's Volver, a good friend said to me, "You just can't argue with Almodóvar," referring to the idiosyncratic style that the great Spanish director has held steady for nearly three decades now. It didn't matter that Volver was, arguably, one of the director's more languid entries in terms of story, thematic content, and ambition. It simply mattered that it was undeniably Almodóvar.

The Limits of Control, the 11th feature by the New York-born auteur Jim Jarmusch, is another work that is inarguably stamped by its director's idiosyncrasies and, like Volver, there have been several critics who have questioned if its artistic success is not so much a result of it being a Jarmusch film rather than simply a good film. It emits a dark-shade cool, as befits any Jarmusch joint, and it features several of the director's usual performers, including the Ivorian-born actor Isaach De Bankolé in the lead.

Continue reading: The Limits of Control Review

Picture - Youki Kudoh and guests Los Angeles, California, Monday 30th July 2007

Youki Kudoh - Youki Kudoh and guests Los Angeles, California - "Rush Hour 3" Los Angeles premiere at Mann's Chinese Theater Monday 30th July 2007

Picture - Youki Kudoh Los Angeles, California, Monday 30th July 2007

Youki Kudoh Monday 30th July 2007 "Rush Hour 3" Los Angeles premiere at Mann's Chinese Theater Los Angeles, California

Youki Kudoh
Youki Kudoh

Picture - Youki Kudoh and mother Los Angeles, California, Monday 30th July 2007

Youki Kudoh - Youki Kudoh and mother Los Angeles, California - LA premiere of 'Rush Hour 3' at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Monday 30th July 2007

Picture - Youki Kudoh Los Angeles, California, Monday 30th July 2007

Youki Kudoh Monday 30th July 2007 LA premiere of 'Rush Hour 3' at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Los Angeles, California

Youki Kudoh
Youki Kudoh
Youki Kudoh

Picture - Youki Kudoh and parents Los Angeles, California, Monday 30th July 2007

Youki Kudoh - Youki Kudoh and parents Los Angeles, California - LA premiere of 'Rush Hour 3' at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Monday 30th July 2007

Memoirs of a Geisha Review


Grim
The only thing which director Rob Marshall doesn't throw into Memoirs of a Geisha is a torch song in which the heroines can lament their sad fates; it might have been an improvement if he had. Adapted from Arthur Golden's 1997 bestselling novel, the film is about Sayuri, a young girl in pre-war Japan sold into servitude at a Kyoto okiya, or geisha house. Although interesting as drama, the book was beloved for its depiction of this long-gone culture's intricate rituals, and the grueling training and subterfuge which the geisha indulged in to succeed. Since much of that material is better suited for the page than the screen, the film blows up the book's more melodramatic moments (and there were plenty of them) into a cliched soap opera of thwarted love, backstabbing and really pretty outfits.

Marshall gives the film, especially its early scenes where Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang) gets schooled in the hard-knock ways of the okiya, a goodly amount of sound and fury that has more than a hint of Spielberg to it (the original director of the project, he stayed on as producer). Having one of the world's most photogenic period settings, Marshall makes all that he can of it, and the results are astonishing. This is a film of fluttering cherry blossoms and dark alleyways lit by paper lanterns, where all houses have their own deftly-maintained garden and everyone is dressed to the nines. The problem is that no amount of amped-up drama or pretty window-dressing can make up for the fact that the phenomenally talented cast has been stuck with hackneyed dialogue to deliver in English - a first language for none of them.

Continue reading: Memoirs of a Geisha Review

Mystery Train Review


Weak
Another oddity odyssey courtesy of Jim Jarmusch, Mystery Train is actually his first color film and hardly his best work. Following a triptych of stories in a sleepy, run-down Memphis hotel (the train itself is considerably less important to the story), while the movie has a number of gigglish moments, on the whole it's a disappointment of squandered story ideas that plod on without much happening. Pretty typical of Jarmusch's characters' on-screen chattiness.

Heaven's Burning Review


Weak
What's that smell? It's heaven burning, and though Russell Crowe's ga-ga fan base will eat up his half love/half bloody revenge story, casual viewers will come away perplexed. Crowe and co-star Youki Kudoh are good enough here (she's a newlywed who's run away from her husband in a strange country, he's a getaway driver in a bank heist, you do the math), but this story plays out like the usual chase movie we've seen a zillion times before. Still, it's tragic... imagine if Thelma and Louise were lesbians.

Snow Falling on Cedars Review


Weak
The transformation of an intricate novel into a successful film can be a daunting task. Filmmakers must effectively generate symbolism and imagery onto the screen, instead of allowing the readers to interpret it for themselves. That's why people are always saying that a movie was never as good as the book.

Unfortunately, Snow Falling on Cedars, directed by Scott Hicks (Shine), is a prime example of an unsuccessful interpretation of a tremendous novel.

Continue reading: Snow Falling on Cedars Review

Snow Falling On Cedars Review


OK

Supremely cinematic and richly drawn in penetrating, slow-burn emotions, "Snow Falling On Cedars" is a truly transporting, layered, period drama that uses the railroading murder trial of a Japanese-American in post-war Washington state as the backdrop for a story about the lasting scars of injustice.

Director Scott Hicks' prestige follow-up to "Shine," one of the films that led the 1996 independent film insurgence into the mainstream, this passionate adaptation of Dave Guterson's deeply layered novel (scripted by the director and screenwriter Ron Bass) stars Ethan Hawke as a reticent newspaperman and war vet who covers the trial and pursues the truth on his own while becoming awash in memories of his forbidden first love -- with a Japanese girl who is now the defendant's wife.

Told initially from Hawke's point of view, as the trial unfolds, its scope widens to include the memories of others, like the girl (Youki Hudoh, a Japanese actress and pop star with an startling, yet understated, emotional range), who remembers being separated from Hawke at first by cultural taboos and then by the government order that sent her family -- and all the Japanese on their quiet forest island -- to internment camps for the duration of the war.

Continue reading: Snow Falling On Cedars Review

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